Effects of Visual Attentional Load on the Tactile Sensory Memory Indexed by Somatosensory Mismatch Negativity

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Auditory sensory memory indexed by mismatch negativity has been broadly studied over the past century, but far less attention has been directed to tactile sensory memory. To investigate whether tactile sensory memory is affected by attention, we recorded somatosensory mismatch negativity (sMMN) from 24 healthy adults in two experiments to distinguish sustained attention from non-sustained attention. Using the roving somatosensory oddball paradigm, we analyzed the average dynamic changes in the amplitude and latency of sMMN amplitude and found a clear sMMN component at the central region at a 100–300 ms interval. The sMMN amplitude, which indexes the early detection of tactile stimuli with the sensory memory trace, was larger in the tactile attentional task. Additionally, the sMMN latency increased with the increasing visual attentional load, which indicates a decay of tactile sensory memory. Our results indicate that the more attention resources are allocated for a tactile sensation, the more favorable it is to the generation of tactile sensory memory.

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